Monthly Archives: August 2010 (Part I) (abridged version)

Buried deep in the fertile soils of our subconscious speaking man are words planted before our time by our colonial masters. Words that we still use even though our forefathers are long gone. Words that show where ghana has been and how very little far ahead we have come. I know, it even shows in our language. In the paragraphs below, I shall expatiate (ahem!) on a few of them.

Alight v.
Definition: descend from a train, bus, or other form of transportation .

For a word that even the dictionary describes as Old English, we hear it rather often in our day to day transportation life. This is often used by people who try to sound educated in a trotros or taxis. In one trotro, a young girl nearing her stop called out: “Mate, I will alight here.” I had to suppress a giggle. Were you to say these same lines elsewhere on this continent (and I won’t mention names) you might be mistaken for a suicide bomber … Now be warned. When I buy my Range Rover and you hitch a ride with me and you tell me to alight you someplace, bear in mind that I will drive you to my house, park my car in the garage and leave you in the car with the child protect lock on and go to sleep. Aba!

Escort v.
Definition: accompany (someone or something) somewhere, esp. for protection or security

If any young man, trying to pick a move on me ever uses these words, I will escort him right out of the door of my heart. Can I escort you to the junction? No you may not! In fact you may never escort me anywhere ever again in my life! So you can escort your Old English self back to whichever hole you came out of! Escort this!

Block n.
Definition: Alternative for ice-cubes.

Have you ever been to a bar/restaurant/chop bar and had this question posed to you?: “Do you want some block in your mineral?” I just can’t get over it. It tickles me every time I hear it.

Barman(girl) n.
Definition: a bartender, waiter/waitress

If you’ve never heard anyone say this at a drinking spot, then you’ve not been in Ghana long enough. I need not say any more.

Mineral n.
Definition: fizzy drink, a soft drink or soda such as Pepsi, Sprite, Coca Cola or a Malt drink.

I don’t want a mineral. I want a soft drink. A soda. A fizzy drink. I don’t want diamond, gold, or bauxite. All I want is a soda pop to kill this thirst.

Paste v.
Definition: To brush ones teeth

“Have you pasted this morning?” If you ask me why it is that we come to use such words, I’ll ask you to rub your hands together and see if you make fire. I can appreciate the link between toothpaste and pasting, but must we insist on pasting instead of brushing? I just don’t get it. Do you?

Traffigator n.
Definition: A turn signal. origin: Perhaps the shortened form of a Traffic Indicator

Use: “That foolish taxi driver, didn’t even show their traffigator before he stopped.”

Traffigator is another coined word that we use rather freely and frequently. The interesting thing is that the literate, semi illiterate and completely illiterate all say traffigator. Don’t ask me why or how. It just is. It’s not that we don’t know, it’s just easier to say traffigator than turn signal or traffic indicator. It just is.

Augur v.
Definition: (of an event or circumstance) portend a good or bad outcome.

This doesn’t augur well, that doesn’t augur well. Will anything ever augur well for us? Maybe not. Not ever. Until we stop using words like this, maybe not. Get a thesaurus people. Make my life a lot less insufferable. Please.

Scapegoat n.
Definition: a person who is blamed for the wrongdoings, mistakes, or faults of others, esp. for reasons of expediency.

I’ll tell you a funny story. I first heard this word when I was barely 10yrs old. We had moved to a different region and a new school. Things were very much surreal at that point in my life/age etc. We had been called for assembly and a million and one children were all packed in lines like canned sardines. I was from a school with a total population of no more than 150 students, being in that crowded environment took a lot getting used to. Now this really strict looking teacher stands up in front of the whole school and talks about using some student as a scapegoat so others will learn from it. I tell you, I wasn’t sure what he meant? I felt he meant that the child would be beaten up like a goat that had escaped from its pen. So a few minutes later, a name is mentioned and up comes this feeble looking boy (I can’t remember what he’d done) and in the presence of three other teachers, the headmistress of the school, and the entire student population, this boy was given a severe lashing after which they let him go. I know, I was very traumatized by the event. Two weeks later, I received my own lashes (for the very first time) for getting 3 wrong answers in a math quiz. Trauma trauma trauma! I vowed never to be used as a scapegoat ever in my life.

Sack v.
Definition: To be walked out of a place/room/office

As in, when I went into the man’s office, he sacked me because I refused to shake his hand. This word is totally misused by Ghanaians all the time. You can’t be sacked from someone’s room or office, you can only be driven out. You can be sacked if you are dismissed from your employment, in which case you will be given the sack. The sack, not sack.

Accoutrements n.
Definition: Additional items of dress or equipment, or other items carried or worn by a person or used for a particular activity
Use: “He came with 2 portmanteaus, 1 briefcase and several other accoutrements.”
In all honesty, I had no idea this word was English until my second year in the university. I tell you, I had believed all my life until then that it was some Ghanaian slang. The origin of this word is French, from the verb “accoutrer” which means to ‘cloth or equip’.

Portmanteau n.
Definition: a large trunk or suitcase, typically made of stiff leather and opening into two equal parts.

This too is a French word from the mid 16th century from the words porter ‘carry’ and manteau ‘mantle’. For this, I don’t really have much to say. The word speaks for itself.

I have no doubt you’ve enjoyed reading this just as much as I did writing it. To all those who helped me compile this list (you know who you are), I’m totally grateful. If you have suggestions and submissions, I advise that you gather them, polish them and keep them someplace safe for the sake of posterity. Or you can simply forward them to my inbox 🙂

Counting on your usual cooperation.

n. – noun
v. – verb


Posted by on August 25, 2010 in Newspapers, vocabulary


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